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Friday, December 19, 2008

Ain't My America, by Bill Kauffman

I really like Bill Kauffman's writing. For one thing, he always makes me proud to be an Iowan. In this book he contrasted Midwestern isolationism with the American Empire beloved by Republican neocons and most Democrats as well. Reading this made me despise George W. Bush's policies even more than I did before. We are propping up fake democracies for the benefit of Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, at the price of miserable levels of debt and taxation here in America.

He went through the history of America's slow expansion into an Empire.

First, the debate over occupying the Phillipines in the nineteenth century:

If neither side distinguished itself by the elevated moral standards of the twenty-first century, when all men are brothers and peace rules our planet, at least the anti-imperialists wanted to leave the Filipinos alone rather than conquer and slaughter them.

The America First isolationist movement was slandered as anti-Semitic (ie, Charles Lindbergh). Here's a wonderful quote from Lincoln Colcord, an American First leader, about his home town:

"It's not a bad place, much like many others, but the secret of our love for it lies in what I have just said -- we know it intimately. This is the lesson I get from Thoreau. Love your own pond. All are beautiful. Be contented where you are. Content! -- a lost word in our America. This restless ambition -- I cannot feel the truth of it. I cannot follow there."

Jimmy Duncan is a Tennessee Republican who argues against huge federally funded education projects. I like his reasoning and know from personal experience that small, poorly funded schools can give a good education.
"Children are better off going to a small school in an old building, as long as it is clean and safe, than to a brand-new, gigantic school where few people know who they are."

Kauffman has some biting words from "pro-family" Christians who enthusiastically support war.
... the activist Christian Right has chosen Revelations over the Sermon on the Mount as its canonical text.

Edmund Wilson thought that fighting the Civil War for the abolition of slavery has led to a theme of "wars fought for freedom".
the Civil War had enabled the United States to fill its "Treasury of Virtue," which we had drawn upon time and again in the subsequent century to support the "insufferable moral attitudes" with which we justify our wars.

Vivien Kellems was an Iowa businesswoman and folk hero who refused to withhold taxes for her employees. She felt it hid the true tax rate from workers and was an un-American imposition. She dared the government to take her to trial, but they never would.
"Many people lack an understanding of the real meaning of patriotism," explained Kellems. "They confuse love of government with love of country. The true patriot may love his country and utterly despise his government."

T. Coleman Andrews was an IRS Commissioner who became an anti-tax crusader after he left his position.
Andrews liked to quote Elbert Hubbard's description of accountants: "spare, wrinkled, intelligent, cold, passive, non-committal, with eyes like a codfish...Happily they never reproduce and all of them finally go to Hell."

Thought there are certainly many fine military families, the military is not a family-friendly organization.
The founders understood this: in 1792, Benjamin Rush proposed that "over the portals of the Department of War" be painted the mottoes "An office for butchering the human species" and "A Widow and Orphan making office." Rush was right. We might add "The Great Cuckold Maker," since no government agency separates husbands from wives quite like the mendaciously renamed Department of Defense.

It's especially sad when mothers are sent overseas.
Behold the perversity as women reservists, young mothers of infants and small children, leave their families to go halfway 'round the world to act as cogs, expendable parts, in the machinery of empire. And hearken the silence of the courtiers and grant grubbers of establishment conservatism, whose mingled amentia and cowardice testify to the gutlessness and wicked stupidity of what passes for the Right.


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